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2017 WNBA Draft Preview: Mystics to select sixth after big offseason

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NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Bridgeport Regional-Maryland vs Oregon David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA Draft will be held this Thursday. at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch it on ESPN2.

10 players will attend the draft, including national player of the year Kelsey Plum and Maryland stars Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

The Mystics started the 2016-17 offseason with the second overall pick in the Draft. However, they won the Elena Delle Donne free agency sweepstakes and traded that pick as part of a package to get the 2015 WNBA MVP which included Stefanie Dolson. The Mystics were still able to get a first round pick (sixth overall) from and swap second round picks with the Seattle Storm in another major deal when they sent Kia Vaughn and Bria Hartley to the New York Liberty.

After the moves, the Mystics enter draft day with the sixth pick in the first round, the 18th pick in the second round, and the 27th pick in the third round.

Let’s go through the Mystics’ needs and then take a look at which players they don’t have a shot at, may have a shot at, and probably get first dibs on with the sixth pick.

The Mystics’ needs

The Mystics come into draft day with one positional need, and one team need.

Center depth

What a difference one offseason makes. Last season, the Mystics had two starting quality centers in Stefanie Dolson and Kia Vaughn. I’m pretty sure many people could see that one of the two would be traded this past offseason. I’m just surprised that both of them had to go in order for the Mystics to sign Elena Delle Donne and have enough cap space next year.

Though the Mystics signed Krystal Thomas, Asia Taylor and brought Tianna Hawkins back, there’s no guarantee that any of them will start. None were starting material on their previous teams. Right now, the Mystics may have to slide Emma Meesseman down to the center and Delle Donne to the power forward position, but they’re more finesse than physical.

Rebounding

The Mystics allowed the third most rebounds last season despite being 10th in overall pace. Getting more rebound-happy centers helps. But this team does need all of its players to be able to rebound the ball effectively.


Now that we’ve talked about their needs, let’s get to the best draft prospects, and see which ones will catch Washington’s eye.

First, let’s get to the one player who we won’t see in Monumental Red:

Forget about it!

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Oklahoma City Regional-Mississippi State vs Washington Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kelsey Plum, 5’8 G, Washington

Plum is the NCAA’s career leading scorer this past season where she scored 31.6 ppg while shooting 52.9 percent from the floor, and 42.8 percent from the three point line. Before last the 2016-17 college season started, Plum was’t expected to be the number one pick right away. But thanks to Diamond DeShields staying one more year at Tennessee AND her own improvement, she’s going to the San Antonio Stars barring a trade or some change of heart.

Even if they didn’t trade for Delle Donne, the Mystics already re-signed Tayler Hill and signed Kristi Toliver in February. A first or second overall pick should be starting. Given the moves they made, the Mystics don’t have room for Plum to get much playing time when Hill and Toliver project to be starting guards, while Natasha Cloud and Ivory Latta are the reserves as of now.

Reaches

NCAA Womens Basketball: SEC Basketball Tournament- Auburn vs South Carolina Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

After Plum, there is no consensus on who the Chicago Sky will pick with the second pick of the draft. However, these players have consistently been named in the lottery conversation, so it’s unlikely that the Mystics will pick them. But in an uncertain draft like this, who knows?

Unfortunately, two of the reaches are centers — the position where Washington can use more depth.

Brionna Jones, 6’3 C, Maryland

Jones led the NCAA in field goal percentage in each of the last two seasons! In 2015-16, Jones made 66.5 percent of her shots, and 69 percent of her shots this past season. Jones averaged 19.9 points a game along with 10.9 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks and steals each per game. Along with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Jones was named to the All-Big Ten first and defensive teams.

Over the past four seasons, Jones has increased her scoring and rebounding averages despite averaging about 24-26 minutes a game in each of her last three seasons. Her versatility as a rebounder and a scorer should make her a lottery pick.

Alaina Coates, 6’4 C, South Carolina

Coates played on the defending national champions where she averaged 12.9 points and 10.7 rebounds a game. For her efforts, she was an All-SEC first and defensive team this past season.

Though Coates missed the NCAA tournament due to an ankle injury, she’s still expected to be a lottery selection.

Allisha Gray, 6’0 G, South Carolina

Gray averaged 13 ppg and 4.8 rpg as she led the Gamecocks to the national championship with Coates. Of all the Gamecocks, Gray had the best performance where she scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the championship game.

Along with guard Kaela Davis, Gray is also an “early entry” because she has one year of eligibility left.

Players who are likely to be available at #6

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Stockton Regional-Oregon State vs. Florida State John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Lets’ now get to the best players who the Mystics are more likely to select with the 6th pick. Since Plum and the best two centers of this class will probably be gone, the Mystics may not reach to pick a center. In that case, they’ll just pick the best player available. Here are some players who you will probably see on the board:

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough 5’11 G/F, Maryland

A number of mock drafts are putting Walker-Kimbrough as Washington’s pick. Besides the local connection, she has played a major part for the Terps during her four-year career and their transition to the Big Ten from the ACC.

As a pro, her most valuable skill will be her three point shooting (72 of 160 threes in 2016-17), where she broke the record books in efficiency during her career. The Mystics are aspiring to be the WNBA’s Golden State Warriors, so if she’s available, it makes sense to pick her because of her shooting and defense, not simply because she played at Maryland.

Sydney Wiese, 6’1 G, Oregon State

Wiese averaged 15.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 4.5 apg this past season for the Beavers, but it’s really her three point shooting that has helped rise her draft stock to being a possible mid first round pick. The Beavers made the Final Four last season and the Sweet 16 this past season, where she helped them win three straight Pac 12 regular season titles in a league where Stanford generally dominates year in and year out.

As a tall sharpshooter who has the ability to rebound and distribute to teammates, she’s an intriguing option for that #6 pick though the Mystics may be reaching if they get her. On the flip side, if they don’t draft her, some other team probably will in the first round.

Nia Coffey, 6’1 PF, Northwestern

Coffey was an All-Big Ten first team selection last season after averaging 18.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and 2.7 apg last season. In fact, she’s made the team all four years. The Mystics can use another rebounder in their rotation, but power forward is one position where the Mystics don’t have to bolster, unless they are anticipating cutting Ally Malott or one of their very recent signings.

Kaela Davis, 6’2 G, South Carolina

Davis was a member of the 2017 national championship team where she averaged 12.8 ppg in her only season for the Gamecocks. She transferred to South Carolina from Georgia Tech where she was an All-First Team ACC selection in the 2014-15 season. Of the three South Carolina players who will attend the draft, Davis is the one most likely to be available.